Our co-op gallops towards the wide blue yonder blindfolded

Me (whispering): “You need brain surgery”

You: “Huh?”

Me (a little louder but still almost inaudibly): “You need brain surgery. Tomorrow.”

You: “Wha…why?”

Me (with great confidence): “Because I am a brain surgeon and it will make you better in every way.”

You: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Look, if you keep on like that, you’ll never get anywhere.”

You: “What is this surgery?”

Me: “I haven’t yet decided on the details but I am a surgeon and you would do well to respect my expertise. In any case, I will have finalised the details by tomorrow. If you have any more questions, you’ll have ample opportunity to ask them on the way to theatre. Thank you for your interest and attending this consultation.”

Our co-op, MG, is rushing onwards with a “capital raising project” that would forever change it from being 100% farmer-owned to “farmer-controlled”. It’s one of the biggest changes in the co-op’s history.

It might well be wonderful but what’s certain is that the ramifications are complex. It’ll take time for us to:

  • understand why we really need to raise half a billion dollars of external capital
  • understand the proposal
  • tease out the pros and cons
  • consider the alternatives and
  • debate it.

Our Kiwi counterparts took five years to make such an important decision about their co-op. We seem hell-bent on doing it in weeks. Why?

Australian dairy: does it matter if it’s sold to China?

Worth saving?

Worth saving?

Does Australian milk matter? We have to decide.

It seems two of Australia’s milk processors, United Dairy Power and Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, are about to be sold to China. Firms backed by the Chinese government are having unofficial talks that would put the price of WCB at a staggering $10 per share.  Meanwhile, the ruthless but charming Canadians continue to acquire a bigger stake of WCB.

Here, close to home, another Chinese firm has already purchased a formerly decommissioned factory and is repackaging milk powder to send back to China. (It’s been a debacle, with outraged and distraught workers regularly featured in the local papers desperate to be paid.)

It’s not limited to the dairy processing sector, either. The Chinese have been buying up our breeding stock for years and now, they want our farms, as Brett Cole reports in the Business Spectator:

“For more than a year, China Investment Corporation has contemplated acquiring Van Diemen’s Land Co, which owns and operates 25 dairy farms with 30,000 dairy stock. Other Chinese companies have moved decisively amid concerns about their nation’s safety standards.”

All this while our Australian farmer co-op, currently the highest bidder for WCB, languishes in the competition tribunal as it ponders – for months – whether we are allowed to bid at all.

Do you care? If you’re a dairy farmer, hell yes, you should. No foreign company cares about your future like you do or your co-op does. Perhaps worse still, once these assets are sold, the fragmentation and inefficiency of our processing sector is locked in, forever limiting the price farmers are paid for our milk.

If you’re not a farmer but an Aussie, there’s an awful lot to be lost. These international companies and governments so keen to pay more than twice the value of WCB are not irrational. They want control of their food. Does that matter to you?